Release of 2017 EJSCREEN Update

By Matthew Tejada

One of the best parts about working for environmental justice at EPA is that we constantly have the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life across the United States. We hear from county commissioners, road builders, city planners, elected officials, professors, tribal leaders, and of course we hear from community members and community based organizations on a whole host of issues impacting their health, their environment and their quality of life. Over the years, it has been heartening to hear what communities have learned, and could achieve, when they used EJSCREEN.

EJSCREEN was released to the public to provide a common starting point for engagement and mutual understanding when discussing environmental justice issues. It provides people with a tool to consider impacts, to ask better questions, and to bring a deeper level of transparency to important data. EJSCREEN’s use has continually grown since it was publicly released. In two years, it has been used over 200,000 times, and we have constantly worked to make sure that the tool evolves to meet the needs of its ever-expanding user base.

I am excited to announce that EJSCREEN has some important new enhancements.

  • We improved our water indicator to show water bodies potentially impacted by toxicity and water pollution.
  • At the request of many of our local government and planning users, we have added municipal level boundaries.
  • We have included new and improved layers on schools and public housing.

And we have of course updated all of the tool’s environmental and demographic indicators with the most recently available data.

Over the past year, we have focused on expanding the ways we engage with our users. We completed an in-depth user survey to gain greater insight for improving EJSCREEN in the future. We are also generating case studies so users can learn how others use the tool in their work.

The range of uses is impressive. In New Jersey, transportation agencies are using EJSCREEN to inform initial planning for new road projects. A North Carolina-based community group used EJSCREEN to identify air-quality concerns and potential environmental threats to adjacent neighborhoods. And EJSCREEN helped Coeur D’Alene, Idaho identify vulnerable areas for greater outreach and consideration. These examples point to why environmental justice is important and how making good data transparent puts environmental justice into action.

To help our many users understand the tool and its updates, we will be hosting a series of webinars with EPA EJSCREEN experts on August 21, September 7 and September 14.

We hope that you will test out EJSCREEN to see how it can serve your needs and provide us feedback on how we can continue to improve it. You can also subscribe to the Environmental Justice ListServ so that you can receive updates on our upcoming EJSCREEN activities.

We look forward to hearing from you – and in the meantime, we hope you find the new version of EJSCREEN as useful as we do!

About the Author: Matthew Tejada is the Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

From Bugs To Breakthroughs- My Path To Environmental Conflict Resolution  

By Deborah Dalton

Imagine a typical public meeting about a controversial local environmental issue, like a recycling center transfer station or preparation for coastal flooding– how did it go? Were people civil? Did they speak their hearts? Did they listen and seek ways to accommodate differences? Was there a decision as a result of the discussion, or a stalemate leaving everybody feeling frustrated?

Every environmental action or decision involves people and organizations who have a wide variety of experiences, approaches, opinions, and needs. EPA frequently navigates these diverse interests under our existing environmental laws.

For the last 30 years, it’s been my job, my calling and passion, to help my colleagues to seek out better, easier, faster ways to accommodate the varying needs of those who depend on us to protect the environment and public health. I’m a Conflict Resolution Specialist within the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center(CPRC). Our center provides expertise in the design and conduct of public involvement activities and in resolution of disputes for EPA.

I came to this calling in a very roundabout way, as most people do if they are lucky to be curious and flexible (and jobless with a master’s degree). In college, I was a social psychology major. After being inspired by evolutionary genetics in my senior year, I pursued graduate work and teaching in biology, and eventually got hired by EPA as an entomologist.

So, how did this lead to a calling in public engagement and dispute resolution? Well, as I worked on the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in another job at EPA, I was frustrated with a system that forced people into taking positions that were mutually exclusive and then asking a judge to pick one of the options. To me, it seemed to leave creativity off the table and to postpone real environmental progress.

Today, CPRC helps our colleagues navigating these types of conflicts and use communication effectively to craft creative solutions. I give my colleagues easy access to sound conflict resolution processes, including tools like mediators and facilitators, so they can focus on improving the science and policy of environmental protection.

My proudest accomplishment is my role in creating and professionalizing the field of environmental mediation and public involvement as a real, full-time career through the creation of two unique tools: a national EPA contract for hiring professional facilitators and mediators from the private sector and a searchable national roster of environmental facilitators and mediators.

While my career has not been that of a traditional environmentalist (or entomologist), I’ve found ways to use my skills and passion to advocate for creative environmental solutions that protect our communities.

About the author: Deb Dalton is currently a Senior Conflict Resolution Specialist in the EPA’s Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center.  She has worked at EPA since 1976 in programs including enforcement, pesticides, hazardous waste and regulatory policy before committing her career to public involvement and conflict resolution. 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Success Stories: Richmond, California

EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program is aimed at improving the environmental health of communities nationwide while improving the livelihood of the residents who live in those communities. Over the years, successful EWDJT programs have been implemented throughout the country, impacting the lives of many. In his own words, here is how the EPA Brownfields EWDJT program allowed Jonathan Brito to change his career:

Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Success Stories: Richmond, California

Before I started on my journey at the RichmondBUILD Academy, I was a father to a beautiful 3-year-old daughter, and I had just been laid off of my 6-year career as an auto body technician. I ran into many career dead ends and depression set in. I then found myself in the middle of a heavy drug addiction.  I lost everything and found myself on the streets living a very hard life. I knew that I had to make things better and heard about a local job training program through the media. This job training program helped local residents, such as myself, start a career in the environmental remediation and construction industry with good living wages.

Jonathan Brito in his Tyvek suit during EPA funded HAZWOPER 40-hour training.

I was very fortunate to become a student at the RichmondBUILD Academy. I must admit it was not easy to get in the Academy and even harder to endure the twelve weeks of intensive training. They pushed me physically and mentally. They helped me regain my self-esteem and confidence. Through the RichmondBUILD program, I learned the skills and knowledge necessary to enter the environmental industry and earned valuable certifications, such as my Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) 40-hour certification, OSHA 10-hour, work zone safety, and first aid/CPR. The Academy also taught me to follow my passion: Solar!

Since my graduation, I’ve worked on the Freethy Industrial Park, a new, two-megawatt, ground-mounted solar project in Richmond and I’m currently employed with Ally Electric doing residential solar installation. I’ve also interviewed with firms that will install solar panels at a new 49-acre, 10.5 MW ground mount solar farm on a former brownfield site in Richmond, California. Most importantly, I have the love of my daughter and family again!

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the City of Richmond, EPA, and the RichmondBUILD Academy. I don’t know where I’d be today without them. I’m forever thankful for the opportunities that have been presented to me. As I look to the future, I would like to become a local contractor and hire people that have been in the same predicament as me. And I will definitely hire them from RichmondBUILD!

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Success Stories: Tacoma, Washington

EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program is aimed at improving the environmental health of communities nationwide while improving the livelihood of the residents who live in those communities. Over the years, successful EWDJT programs have been implemented throughout the country, impacting the lives of many. In his own words, here is how the EPA Brownfields EWDJT program allowed Ricardo Loza to change his career:

Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Success Stories: Tacoma, Washington

I spent over 20 years of my professional life in the transportation business, working in operations, pricing and management before losing my job during the recession in 2008. In January 2013, after being unemployed for nearly five years, I found myself in Tacoma, WA applying for food stamps for the first time in my life. Like most people, I’ve had good and bad times; this for me was the very lowest point in my life. As I walked out of the Washington Department of Social and Health Services office, I spotted a flyer for the City of Tacoma’s environmental job training program.

I went back to where I was staying and asked the person I was renting a room from to please bear with me while I took a six-week course. Thankfully, they agreed to put off my rent for two months.
On orientation day, I saw all those text books and wondered what I had gotten myself into.

What seemed like an insurmountable task turned into a step by step progression in learning the skill for each certification, thanks to my wonderful instructors, Chris Goodman and Bill Routely, who kept us focused. At age 50, I was the oldest person in my class and I felt I was at a disadvantage. A feeling that was only exacerbated when I went to look for work.

As part of the graduation ceremony, there was a sign-up sheet for TCB Industrial to attend a group interview. I got a call back from my would-be predecessor asking me to attend. With TCB being a temporary labor contractor, my thought was I could gather some money and move forward looking for permanent employment. As our group was leaving, I mentioned to her that when she reviews my resume she will see I have several years of administrative and office experience. I told her I could apply my recent training in the hazardous materials business along with my existing years of experience with the full Microsoft suite to work as temporary office help for TCB.

Unbeknownst to me, she had just submitted her two weeks’ notice to TCB Industrial the day prior. I found out later that she submitted my name and resume to the owner of TCB as her possible replacement. I was called back in for a second interview. It went well. Combining my previous experience and recent environmental training made me the perfect candidate, which has led me to where I am today: The Pacific Northwest Director Operations for TCB Industrial Corporation.

I am certain I wouldn’t have been considered by my current employer without the direct HAZWOPER training provided by the EPA funded brownfields program. It’s a great honor, pleasure and privilege to continue to work with Clover Park Technical College, Goodwill of the Olympics, and EPA. Our combined efforts have allowed TCB Industrial to hire several EPA job training graduates and place them with brownfields projects throughout the Puget Sound region.

None of this would have been possible without the EPA Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program. For that I will be forever grateful.

Sincerely,
Ricardo Loza

 

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Lawyer, Scientist, Mom- The Lenses I Use To Protect The Environment

I have worked as an International Environmental Program Specialist in EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs since 2003. For the last 8 years, I have been the project manager for international environmental cooperation with Andean countries, particularly those with which the United States has free trade agreements (Colombia, Chile and Peru). It has been very rewarding to oversee and coordinate capacity building and information exchange efforts with our international counterparts, helping them raise their environmental standards and, therefore, protecting our shared environment. When I see the enthusiasm and dedication that my counterparts show for improving their capacity, promoting environmental and human health, and improving their enforcement and compliance of environmental laws, I feel like my job makes a difference.

It all started with a dream to become a lawyer. As a high school senior, I wasn’t sure about my college major until I sat with my mother and went through a catalog of degrees available at the University of Puerto Rico. I was extremely lucky to have involved parents, particularly a mother who knew how important it was to find something meaningful. The more I read about all the disciplines involved, the more I was convinced that environmental science would perfectly blend my interests and skills. Somehow, even back then, I knew I wanted to work for the EPA after I finished my education.

In a funny twist of events, my first job after law school was at EPA, not as a lawyer, but as an environmental scientist. While I realized that environmental policy fits better with my personality, I have discovered that I still tend to see the issues I deal with at work through a legal lens.

Through the years, my passion for my job has grown and, as a mother to a boy and a girl, I find my job is even more important. Now I find inspiration when I think of the world I want them to inhabit, of the values I want them to hold dear and the environment I want them to be able to enjoy. When I take my 4-year-old daughter hiking, I want her to breathe fresh air and think of how she can help, even as a little girl, to protect our environment. She already knows about recycling! And when my son asks for scientific books, I beam with pride because he understands our interconnectedness to everything around us.

My job here has perfectly blended my science and legal education with my endless curiosity and respect for the environment. I look forward to continue reaching new people as I undertake new projects, and setting an example for my children to take care of and appreciate the amazing environment we live in.

About the author: Nadtya Hong has worked in EPA’s Office of International Affairs since 2003. She has a BS in Environmental Science from the University of Puerto Rico and a J.D. in Law from the George Washington University Law School.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

How One Bus Ride Led Me To Public Service

By Elle Chang

“If you look to the right, you’ll see power plants and waste incinerators have been positioned next to elementary school playgrounds, where mercury and lead exposure are harming children, and little is being done to address it. These are environmental justice communities,” our guide explained. Ten years ago, I was on a bus driving through a neighborhood off of North Capitol Street, not too far from where I live now in Washington, DC. It was freshman year of college and that weekend, I had joined thousands of other social justice advocates, student government leaders, and other community representatives at a national conference about climate justice, environmental racism, lobbying, voter education, and becoming empowered citizens to inspire others to plug into movements they cared about.  

The images from that bus ride stick with me to this day as a reminder that we have much to accomplish in terms of protecting human health and the environment. Understanding the relationship between communities and their natural environments has been a theme that I have found myself attempting to understand in each major phase of my life. Seeing many environmental issues with health implications for communities made friends of mine so upset in college that they were willing to skip class to chain themselves to doors of buildings. Potentially telling my mother that I had been arrested for trespassing because I cared about protecting the environment wasn’t an option, so I took a less radical approach and began attending community meetings to listen and see where my intentions could be more useful. The intersection of public participation, good governance, sustainable development, and cooperative management models are what led me to get a degree in political science and work as a Peace Corps volunteer, graduate student, United Nations staffer, climate change researcher, and in my current role as an EPA analyst.

With a deep belief in public service, community engagement, policy and science-based facts, my role in the American Indian Environmental Office involves managing the partnership with the National Tribal Caucus that includes a national group of tribal environmental leaders who advise EPA on policies affecting Indian country. One of the best aspects about my job is that I get to work with the tribal offices in the regions, at headquarters, and throughout the federal family and it pushes me to continuously learn about new issues in highly diverse communities from a social justice and environmental policy perspective. Though the work can feel overwhelming, I am always inspired by the positivity, passion, and necessity to persevere and protect our shared environment by our tribal partners who are a reminder that our policies and actions here in Washington, DC have wider and deeper implications than we will ever experience.

Prior to joining EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs, Elle Chang graduated from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University with a master’s degree in International Development where she explored the intersection of integrated conservation solutions and indigenous issues as it relates to natural resource management. Ms. Chang served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in East Java, Indonesia where she focused on secondary school education and gender empowerment programs.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

My Journey from Peace Corps to Minamata

By Marianne Bailey

Every day at EPA, I have the privilege of working with our staff to advance public health and environmental protection through international cooperation. As a high school student in the 1970s, I knew that diplomacy in some form was my path. As it turns out, diplomacy comes in many guises, and the kind we do at EPA is the most fulfilling kind I could have imagined.

After getting some work experience under my belt after college, I got an MPA degree then joined the Peace Corps in Mali, where I worked on agroforesty and nutrition. After that, EPA became my home. I worked on our Asia and Africa programs early in my EPA career. EPA’s expertise is unrivalled in the world, and is in big demand.

Working in close cooperation with our program and regional offices, and with strong management involvement, we achieved a very rapid phase out of leaded gasoline in China and many other countries in both regions, started air monitoring programs, and advanced environmental health initiatives such as the Chemical Information Exchange Network.

More recently, I was proud to have been involved in negotiating the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The Convention requires all countries to meet the same obligations to reduce the globally circulating emissions which impact the food Americans consume.

The Convention even addresses an informal sector, artisanal and small-scale gold mining, which has emerged as the largest source of global mercury emissions. It addresses that sector in a way that respects miners and their families, and should allow them to continue this important income-generating activity without facing the severe health impacts caused by inhaling mercury when the mercury-gold amalgam is burned to make pure gold.

And now, I am so proud of how our newer staff members have put their intelligence and leadership qualities to work on today’s most pressing challenges. Because what has stuck with me the most about this work over the years is that we can make such a big, positive difference in peoples’ lives through our public service.

My advice to those thinking about public service, including careers in environmental protection, and to those embarking on their careers: be willing and eager to take on new challenges, to stretch, to reach for something that might seem unachievable at first look. Look again – there is no challenge too big for your vision!

About the author: Marianne Bailey is the Deputy Director for Global Affairs and Policy at the US Environmental Protection Agency, which works on a wide range of global environmental issues. Marianne has worked on global mercury issues for over a decade and was the US negotiator for the Minamata Convention’s ASGM provisions. She has previously managed US EPA’s bilateral efforts in Africa and Asia; served as a US Peace Corps agroforestry volunteer in Mali; and worked for the US House of Representatives.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

50,000 Kilowatt Hours of Solar Power

By Steve Donohue

On a recent sunny Sunday (appropriately enough) the meter for the solar photovoltaic (PV) system on our home showed we had produced 50,000 kWh of clean renewable electricity!

This is a major milestone to me but what does it really mean? The EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator helps translate abstract measurements like these into concrete terms. In our case the carbon dioxide emissions we avoided with our solar panels were equal to the amount captured and stored, or sequestered, by over 33 acres of forest in a year.

That’s a big benefit for the planet and, closer to home, enough “juice” to supply over 85% of our annual electricity needs. We installed the PV system back in July 2010 and I originally wrote about it in 2012 https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2012/07/energy-independence-day/. The table below shows the results of our conservation and efficiency improvements and solar production since we first moved into our house.

Our average annual electricity bill for the last five is about $250 and in 2015 we got it down to $182. Since installation we have also had zero maintenance or operating expenses and with no moving parts I expect our system to last a long time.

That’s good since we still have about another 3 years or so until we re-coup the cost of our initial investment and the system is paid off by our savings.

Sustainability often means taking the long view and in our case it was like paying 10 years of electricity bills upfront so we could get our power from the sun and essentially never pay another bill.

Even more good news is that our system today would be about half of what we paid. This is the penalty we paid for being “early adopters” but I am happy to see my neighbors have started to join the bandwagon. In the last year I am seeing panels sprouting on roof tops all over my neighborhood. One family uses their panels to charge their electric car!

And what I’m seeing locally is a microcosm of what is happening in the world. I read that in 2015 for the first time there was more installed renewable power generating capacity, like solar and wind, than any single fossil fuel powered generating capacity. I’m hopeful that we’ve finally reached a tipping point and there is a bright future ahead for renewable power.

About the author: Steve Donohue has been a senior environmental scientist at EPA for over 25 years. Currently, he works in the Office of Environmental Innovation in Philadelphia where he is focused on improving the sustainability and climate change and improving the efficiency of EPA facilities.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Environmental Justice Comes to Salt Creek

By Michael Wenstrom

Several years ago I traveled to Pueblo, Colorado in response to a request from a local resident. I was asked to sit in on a meeting to hear a discussion about the presence of a legally-permitted auto dismantling yard and aluminum smelter in a residential neighborhood. The neighborhood was Salt Creek.

Salt Creek Neighborhood, Pueblo, Colorado

Salt Creek Neighborhood, Pueblo, Colorado

The Salt Creek neighborhood contains about one hundred homes and is predominantly Latino. Most of the residents are third generation Americans of Mexican descent. Someone in the community reached out to the Region 8 Environmental Justice Program to ask for help, not knowing just what “environmental justice” was, but knowing something needed to change.

Among Salt Creek residents, there was little understanding of what government did and how and why they made the decisions they made. In this case, residents knew that things were happening in and around their community that were wrong and they wanted to know what to do to protect themselves.

Salt Creek is flanked by a steel mill which emitted more than forty percent of Colorado’s airborne mercury, and by a major coal-fired power plant and, additionally, was home to the smelter noted above.
As I sat in that meeting, in the basement of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, listening to the community share their concerns, little did I know that this would be the beginning of a fifteen year-long odyssey. This meeting was the first of many.

Over time I learned that Salt Creek residents are strong and proud people. They persisted, even in the face of adversary.

The EJ Program began to work to help the community find its voice. We co-sponsored community meetings and invited local businesses, representatives from the city and county and from law enforcement. We talked (in English and Spanish) about what the community cared most about. In most cases, the invited guests listened and learned. In some cases, they tried to deflect the concerns and occasionally, they attempted to bully or confuse the residents. But, Salt Creek would not be deterred.

Among other things, EPA brought a Collaborative Problem Solving grant to the community, engaged with our RCRA Program to address nearby contamination, facilitated meetings with the steel mill and under an enforcement action,  $400,000 in community-based Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) benefitted the neighborhood.

Together, over the years, we saw the steel mill dramatically reduce its mercury emissions, and the local power utility implement ground-breaking emissions controls. Oh, and, yes, the aluminum smelter was moved to a more appropriate location.

In that time, I became friends with some remarkable people, who began to raise their voices and make their community safer, cleaner and healthier. And, on a personal level, I was both proud and humbled by the fact that, together, we were able to make a real difference in the lives of community residents. Through collaboration, persistence and caring, I and my EPA colleagues were able to help a community transform itself.

The attached video is one example of how one Salt Creek resident helped to effect this transformation. Nadine Triste used her common sense, her network of neighbors and, support from the EPA to make a difference. Because of Nadine, and others like her, Salt Creek is forever changed.

 

About the author: Michael Wenstrom has been working in the Region 8 Environmental Justice Program for almost twenty years. In that time, he has focused on working in communities facing an amazing variety of environmental insults and challenges. Most recently, he has been assisting Region 5 in its ongoing work to assist the residents of Flint, Michigan to address their immediate concerns relating to the water crisis and other threats to their environment and their health.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Free is free. But Hungry is hungry

By Mike Frankel

I was in line at the supermarket and two women in front of me were talking about their lack of freezer space.  Like many supermarkets, if you spend X dollars by a certain date before Thanksgiving and before Xmas you get a free a turkey, ham or lasagna.

One of the women demanded, “Why can’t they just give us cash? I still have the free turkey from Thanksgiving, and we go to my daughters now for the holidays. So what am I going to do with another 13-lb. bird?”

“Well, you could take the ham,” her buddy suggested.  “But I understand. And at our age who needs the salt. Besides, my freezer is just as jammed.  But free is free!!”

There isn’t a lot of privacy in the checkout line. And as I looked ahead, I saw the banner across the inside store window: “A Proud Partner – Philabundance,” my area’s largest hunger-relief
organization serving nearly 90,000 meals a week. “Ladies, excuse me. What about donating those free freezer fillers to Philabundance?”

I explained that while their kitchens were well-stocked, one-in-six people in Philadelphia and one-in-seven across the country don’t know where their next meal is coming from and are “food insecure.”  At the same time, the average American family wastes nearly 400 lbs. of food a year.  And as a country we waste a staggering 38+ million tons of food each year. And when you throw food into a landfill it rots quickly and produces toxic gases that are
bad for the environment and contribute to climate change.

By this point, the cashier had stopped ringing and was joining the conversation. “Yes — the store gives a lot of food each week to Philabundance, and some other local food cupboards. If you’d like,  I can ask the manager to send your free birds along with this week’s shipment.”

They looked a little skeptical. I chimed back in. “You could also ask your clergy if they know of families or charities in need of food this holiday season and every day.” This seemed like a good idea and my new acquaintances asked how I knew so much about hunger and food donation.

“Well, I work for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and part of my job is to help spread the word about food donation and food recovery – not usually in checkout lines – but if it works…In fact I have met the owners of this store through my job and they – like thousands of other stores, colleges, stadiums and people – are doing their part to protect the environment, save money and stamp out hunger. Now you can help too.”

About the author: Mike Frankel just celebrated his 20-year anniversary at EPA. He works as a Communications Coordinator in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office and works on a variety of programs including the Food Recovery Challenge (www.epa.gov/frc).

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